The Italian Almanac

European Union

Italian News - February 21

The president of the European commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, will today find waiting on his desk an irate letter from Italy's permanent representative, protesting at the downgrading of Italian at commission press conferences. According to Italian press reports last week, the EU's bureaucracy has decided that, from now on, proceedings will be translated into Italian only on Wednesdays.

The news has initiated an impassioned debate in Italy over the country's international standing. It is particularly embarrassing for Silvio Berlusconi's rightwing government, which is committed to raising Italy's global profile. Some commentators accused successive governments of failing to provide sufficient funds for bodies responsible for promoting Italian. But others blamed the Italians' love of sprinkling their speech with Anglicisms.

The European affairs minister, Rocco Buttiglione, said: "The decision to discriminate against Italian is unacceptable." Italy's commissioner in Brussels, Franco Frattini, threatened to hit back by speaking only in Italian at his own press conferences.